Making the cut

Despite vets extolling the virtues of neutering or spaying a pet, many paw-rents think it’s an act of cruelty (it’s not). Still apprehensive about sterilising your furkid? We help bust the most common myths.
By Gillian Lim
Published on Thursday, 12 April 2018

Would you remove your pet’s reproductive organs? Paw-rents who choose not to claim that this procedure is not only risky and unnecessary, it will also alter their furkid’s personality and bring about a plethora of health issues. However, paw-rents who do sterilise their furkids argue that this routine surgery lengthens the life of their pet and minimises the risk of cancers associated with the reproductive system.

Despite the overwhelming support for sterilisation from vets and governments alike—like Laval, a Canadian city, that rolled out a legislation this year requiring all dogs and cats above six months to be sterilised unless they’re exempted by the vet—paw-rents still hesitate to get their furkids spayed or neutered because of misconceptions about the procedure.

We speak to local veterinarians to get the story straight. Here are the most popular myths and facts about sterilisation—can you tell which are true and which are false?

About the surgery

The surgery will be painful for my pet.
Myth. Your furkid will be put under general anaesthesia for the surgery, so it will be unable to move and won’t feel pain or discomfort. “Modern veterinary anaesthesia is considered safe,” shares veterinarian Dr Daphne Low from Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Farrer). “Anaesthesia works by using chemicals that act on the brain to induce a temporary state of enforced unconsciousness. Plus, your pet will be administered with pain relief medication before and after surgery.”

It’s dangerous to put my pet under anaesthesia.
It depends on whether your furkid has any existing health conditions that might make the surgery riskier. However, anaesthesia risks are minimal for healthy pets. A study conducted in 2008 by British veterinarians, led by Professor David Brodbelt, tracked 98,036 dogs and 79,178 cats that underwent anaesthesia. Results showed that the mortality rate was only 0.05 percent for healthy dogs and 0.11 percent for healthy cats.“

General anaesthetic risk is relatively small these days, as anaesthetic drugs are quite quickly metabolised, which makes them a lot safer to use,” shares Dr Philippa Spellman, the leading veterinary surgeon of Amber Vet. “This is coupled with thorough anaesthesia monitoring by trained veterinary staff, along with monitoring equipment to measure vital signs.”

My pet is too old to be sterilised.
Myth. While the anaesthetic risk does increase with age, sterilisation can still be performed for older animals, especially if they are healthy. “It is not so much the age, but rather the health status of the pet,” says Dr Low. “As with any surgical procedure, a thorough physical examination, medical history and blood tests will be done to ensure the animal is fit to undergo anaesthesia.” Dr Tan agrees: “As long as the pet’s vitals are normal and monitored closely during surgery, sterilisation can still be performed on older patients, especially so if they’re suffering from diseases like prostatis or prostate enlargement in male dogs and pyometra in female dogs or cats.” Traditionally, vets recommend pets to be sterilised when they’re at least six months old—that’s when most of them reach puberty. If you’re unsure whether your pooch is healthy enough to undergo anaesthesia, speak with your veterinarian and request for blood work.

Health issues

It doesn’t do anything for my pet’s health.
Myth. By neutering or spaying your pet, you’re eliminating the possibility of developing diseases related to its reproductive system, such as pyometra (uterus cancer), mammary or ovarian cancer, and greatly reducing the chances of breast cancer, as well as other genital and hormone-related diseases.

My pet will gain weight because of it.
Myth. While it is true that your pet’s metabolic rate might decrease after sterilisation, surgery alone will not cause it to gain weight. “This will only happen if the owner is unaware that his pet has a lower metabolic rate post-sterilisation and continues to feed it the same amount of calories,” says Dr Tan. “Any weight gain can be reversed by controlling your pet’s diet and regular exercise.”

For more myths about sterilisation, flip to our Body and Soul (pg 58) of our Apr/May 2018 issue!